Sunday, January 29, 2017

Are we in the Matrix?

As I read the Facebook walls of many of my friends, I am inundated with news commentary and articles expressing praise or disdain for the current administration.   I feel like Switch in the Matrix movies when the antagonist begins pulling out their 'plugs.'   In that terrifying scene the man says "If you have anything to say to Switch, I suggest you do it now."   Switch knows what is happening, she knows she's about to die.  "No, not like this. Not like this."   Then it's over.  She's dead.  A woman who was a warrior, a freedom fighter, an outcast who keeps coming back in to the fight for the rights of others;  broken in a moment where she has no way to fight back, with an enemy who doesn't even let her see his face.

I just read a news article in which a family from one of the countries that our President has put a 'ban' on.  They apparently had come to America to see their family and were refused admission, even though all of their papers were in order.  They had to board a plane and fly back to whatever country they were from.  Is that the answer?  Something does have to be done, doesn't it?   We have an illegal immigration problem that is out of hand.  We have terror attacks occurring on U.S. soil by radicalized people who want to harm as many as they can, to go out in a blaze of glory!  Building walls?  Banning people from entry because of where they happened to be born?  Refusing even refugees of war torn countries?

Today's readings remind us of the need for humility.  The need to trust in God and his providence, but also to realize that we alone are not worth much.   We often think of America as the greatest of countries, and in many ways it is.  From freedom to resources, we are indeed well off compared to many other places of the world.  We have more food than we need and often abuse that, gluttonously devouring more than our share.  We have wealth, power and prestige... but all of this is nothing.   God lifted up the lowly and cast down the mighty.   That doesn't mean that the wealthy should be under the poor.. or the poor given a pedestal... but rather that they both be brought to the same level... human.. a sinner.

Jesus reminds us in the beatitudes of that calling.  The calling to be a humble, coheir to the kingdom.   One that has nothing to boast for, except in Christ.  Thomas Aquinas, one of the most brilliant minds in the history of mankind, wrote volume upon volume about God.   As he placed his works under the cross he said "Here lord, I hope this is worthy."   Christ said from the cross, "You have done well.   I will answer any request you ask, give you anything you desire."   Thomas said, "Only you lord, only you."  Wow.   That's what the beatitudes call us to.   A radical divergence from self desire and ego.  To become like Christ on the cross... poor, meek, humble.   To rely totally on God's plan, regardless of who we are, how much we have, or where we come from.

You and I were born into this.  We didn't earn it.  We just happened to be born on American soil.  They were born where they were, not because they chose.  Not because they failed to be as 'worthy.'  Now they flee from those people who want to kill them, harm them, tax them into non-existence.. and we do what?  We shut the door on them in the name of American exceptionalism.  Don't get me wrong.   I am a patriot. I love my country.   I however am not a nationalist.  I will point out when our country does something wrong. We are making a mistake when we say America first, period.   It should be humanity first.  It should be the widow, the orphan, the refugee, the alien... that's what Scripture calls us to.  So if you're a Christian, and you believe this to be a Christian nation, we need to step up and say "No, not like this."  To be merciful, to be meek, to be clean of heart, and above all to thirst for justice and righteousness.

His servant and yours,

"He must increase, I must decrease."

A reflection on the readings for the Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time, January 29th, 2017 .

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Torn between two worlds

The day after the feast of Saint Paul, we celebrate two of his closest co-workers and friends, Timothy and Titus.   Two young men torn between two worlds.   One was a man of a mixed marriage, Jewish and Greek.  The other a Greek as well.   They were bombarded with difficulties in their lives both from society itself, and even in the Church.  The reality of it is that while the Church is Divine, she is also Human, just like the Messiah Himself.  So Paul urges them on in his letters to be peaceful, patient and loving.. but to stand up for their faith.

Last night I met a man in the parking lot outside of the Church.   It wasn't our first encounter.   He actually scared me by talking right behind me in the dark.   He apologized for scaring me of course, and then went on to tell me about his problem.   He had a jug of milk in his hand.  He seemed very proud of that jug.  He had gotten it himself he kept saying.  The problem was he didn't have any cereal.  He just wanted some cereal to eat with his milk.

There I was, torn between two different mindsets, two different worlds.  On one hand, we encourage people to "not let their right know what their left is doing."   That is give without thinking of where the money is going to go.   Here was an opportunity to give from what little I do have.  I knew I had some money in my wallet. I had planned to go to the store and grab a snack with it.  I had an hour to kill and that's the very reason I was in the parking lot heading out in the dark.   The other world tugged at me saying, this man has asked you for money before, again and again.  How many times have I heard others proclaim: "You don't know what he's going to do with that money."   "He's just going to buy alcohol!"  "How will he ever learn to help himself?"

Patience.   Love.   Faith.   I took a moment to truly look at him.  I noticed his beard was dripping with the cold rain.  He's hands were shaking from the low temperatures.   This jug of milk had obviously become heavy from whatever distance he had carried.   I was overwhelmed with love.  I gave him money and told him to get some cereal.  Like Timothy and Titus we are all torn between two worlds.  The world that tells us we should take care of our own, our selves, before we serve others; and the calling of Christ that says "What I have done in washing your feet, you should do for each other."

Today's Gospel reminds us that we are infused with the Light of the Holy Spirit.  In that moment in the dark, cold night I was given a chance to take my light and hide it under a basket.   To keep that money for a snack for me, a snack that when you look at me I clearly don't truly need.  Jesus reminds us that with "what measure we measure, will be measured to me."  Not all of us are called to be Bishops and Apostles, like the Saints we have celebrated the past days, but all of us are called to be Servants to a hurting world.   I could have just prayed for this man, as I have done in the past.   I could have told him to come back next week when Father got back.  I could have honestly told him I can't afford to help you.   Saint James tells us If a brother or sister is ill-clad and in lack of daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what does it profit?

Don't hide your light.  Don't take your gifts and bury them in the sand.   Invest them in each other.  Give freely of your heart.   Give freely of your love.   Don't be afraid of being hurt, or what others might do with your gift.  Remember that nothing that is hidden will not be made visible, and that includes the contents of our hearts and minds.   Will this man be back for more?  Probably.   All I know is that for one moment I was able to let Christ shine into the darkness of that cold night.  Not to lift me up.  Not to make me more boastful and ego filled.   Not for my own sake, but for someone else's... and that's what we all have to hope for.

In a world filled with conflicting thoughts, opinions and lifestyles; our children are stuck between two worlds. One world encourages them to life a life of hedonism, a life of false freedom, in which they do whatever their hormones and desires tell them to do.   The other tells them to follow Christ and deny those things inside them their hold on them.   It's up to us to reach out to them, to show them that a life with God at the center is one of joy, of hope, and of charity.  Saint Paul says we are given a spirit of power, and love, and self control... does our life shine that?

His servant and yours,

A reflection on the readings for the Feast of Saints Timothy and Titus, January 26, 2017.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

The Antidote

Yesterday was a difficult day for most.  As we stood outside in the cold tolling the bell and praying a divine mercy chaplet for our country and the unborn, it’s somber notes echoed through my soul.  The news was inundated with images of women saying, wearing and doing some very strange things, all in the name of progress.   From celebrities claiming they wanted to blow up the white house to women wearing sexual images on their heads, all had one thing in common.  Pride and fear.   Their eyes spoke of a fear that someone was going to take away something they wanted to hold on to.   Their freedom, their desires, their dreams.  They had been manipulated by a deceitful enemy into believing that the gift of life was a burden and to be a real woman meant not being a woman at all, but becoming exactly like the men of old.

What is the antidote to fear and pride?   Humility and hope.   It’s realizing that God came as man, incarnate in flesh to show us a better way.   That being a human being means being a reflection and image of that God.   That his plan for us is not broken.  That we should not be ashamed of who we are.   Too many of us think we must change ourselves, and we convince others that if they feel this way or that way that they aren’t who they should be.   So we spend thousands of dollars of cosmetic changes to try and make us look like what we society has convinced us we should, when all we need to do really is become comfortable with who we see in the mirror.

Today in the Gospel Jesus reminds us that doing the will of God makes us family.   Brothers and sisters of the Lord.   It’s not a slight to Mary, as some would have it seem.   Rather it’s a reminder of her perfect yes to God’s will.   It’s showing us that we too are asked to say an unconditional yes to who we are, to God’s plan, no matter how difficult it seems or how dark the day may become.   We are the light of the world gathered together at the feet of Christ learning daily.  That when we say yes we are living life to the fullest of what we are created to be.   We no longer feel uncomfortable in our skin, no longer feel ashamed of who we are or what feelings or desires we have.. But realize we have been complete all along, even in our brokenness.

What does that mean to you and I when we see such images of people filled with fear and pain? It’s a reminder that they too are created in God’s image.   That in them we get a glimpse of the Garden of Gethsemane.  It’s a moment to comfort our savior in His hour of need.  Not a moment of condemnation or to trivialize what He is feeling, but to journey with Him and say I know that it’s scary.  I know that you are afraid, but God has a perfect plan for us.   To be an example of humility, hope, and charity.   It’s a moment to be Church to a hurting nation.   A moment to understand and to understand we have to listen.

In that first reading we have this beautiful line:

Then he says, Behold, I come to do your will.
He takes away the first to establish the second.
By this "will," we have been consecrated
through the offering of the Body of Jesus Christ once for all.

Consecrated.  Set apart.   Chosen.   That’s our hope.   Not a prideful and vain hope, but rather one filled with the humility of knowing that none of us are worthy.   The world is not going to believe any of our words until we show them that we live it.   We can claim we love everyone but until our actions show that we do, until we have begun to pour our lives out like the very cup which Jesus drank, until we too can look in the eyes of others and truly say I am here for you… then we aren’t living our own calling as brother and sister.   A brother protects, he stands up for his siblings, and he guides.    A sister nourishes, heals, and hopes.   We are called to both… are we ready to do as we pray?  Thy will be done, on earth as it is in Heaven.   

Saint Frances de Sales understood this.   In his lifetime he worked till his feet froze and bled trying to teach others about Christ and His Church.   He listened for God’s will before embarking on things He wanted to do and in all ways served even at the detriment of his own health.  Too often in society we are encouraged to put ourselves first, then worry about others.  That’s why we have this very movement in our midst.  Christ instead challenges us to be least of all, and too choose others over ourselves.   Francis didn’t encourage a dry, dreary life of penance and brokenness, but one of joy, laughter and dancing.  He showed us the true freedom and elation of doing God’s will.   It’s about time that we embraced that, and that begins by looking into Jesus eyes in the Garden and saying, “I love you.”

His servant and yours,

“He must increase, I must decrease.”

A reflection on the readings for daily Mass, January 24, 2017. The Memorial of Saint Frances de Sales